#205 : Legend of the Galactic Heroes: My Conquest is the Sea of Stars

It all began here. Behold a grand vision, an epic beyond scope. Witness a story about a fated meeting between two talented men who were destined to play the game of life while serving on different sides of a conflict. All of this during a particular point in time… and space. Welcome to the world of Legend of the Galactic Heroes. The grand 110 episode OVA would be released late in 1988, but earlier in the year a film would kick off the animated version of Yoshiki Tanaka’s novel series. Legend of the Galactic Heroes: My Conquest is the Sea of Stars begins this grand space opera that for many of us became an obsession.

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 100How does one open a great anime film? With explosions  flashy colors, or beautiful people? NO!!! You enter a black screen with scrolling German text and the beginnings of Gustav Mahler’s Third Symphony. Heavy! I love Mahler’s music so I was very impressed, but may I ask… is this really an anime? Enter spaceships, multitudes of them, and a blonde young man in a pondering mood accompanied by Chopin. OMG are you for real? All of these great classic pieces of music and superb artwork… would you believe at first I hated anything that was Legend of the Galactic Heroes.

LoGHMCitSoS_2I was very much in a state of ignorance, prejudice and being closed minded from the possibility that this anime franchise was more than the hype I had heard. LoGH has a very, VERY!, dedicated fan following that puts this series on such a pedestal that I with the way I am had to be oppositional.  Then over time as I continued on the LoGH journey I would change my perspectives. I began to see that I was witnessing something very beautiful and special. It may be true that LoGH has a lot of dialogue, battle tactics, politics and is quite a long experience to watch, but at it’s core is a story about people, the lives they live in an extraordinary time and the emotions they go through.

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 100Introductions for both our ‘Heroes’ is long overdue. Meet Yang Wen-li, a well educated junior officer from the Free Planets Alliance that is strategically brilliant. As as a young and lower ranked officer he is often overlooked, unheard, or put into his place by his superiors. Meet also the Galactic Empire’s Reinhard von Müsel (later von Lohengramm), who being the attractive blonde youth archetype and the brother of the Kaiser’s mistress was gifted the rank of Admiral. He commands a beautiful white vessel too. While many elders hold much jealousy toward him in terms of moving up through nepotism, they don’t realize his dormant talents as a commander and tactician. Both young men are not taken seriously, until the events of this movie by way of the two standout moments: The Battles at Legnica and Iserlohn Fortress. By the end of the film both ‘Heroes’ learn of each other and with a sixth sense both end up feeling a great respect towards each other and a tie that binds them together in terms of fated destiny.

LoGHMCitSoS_4Being young, brilliant and full of new possibilities can be a wonderful thing except at times there is a problem. When one is young, brilliant and full of new possibilities that is situated in a group that is propped up by an older, more conservative and, or more stagnant environment, then a clash of energies can bring about tensions. Call it jealousy, call it ignorance, or call it reluctance to surrender. When one is young and wanting to prove oneself in the world there is often resistance and sparks will fly. This in simpler terms is the battle of generations; the older guard who refuse to step aside to allow the new vision and hope take their rightful place in the sun. Maybe this newer regime has to grow some patience within the short term and eventually learn to bend the system and work within strategic loopholes, which are nothing more than opportunities.

LoGHMCitSoS_5This for me in a nutshell is what My Conquest is the Sea of Stars is, a rising up of a new generation and a new ideal to follow. We get a taste of what to expect in the coming OVA and coming back again I was more than ready, excited and loving it all more than the before. What makes this movie, this franchise, so great? Well, the proof is in the pudding. Just open your eyes and ears, because its there for all to see, hear and feel. This may not be for everyone, but this is space opera and science fiction at it’s best. A true hallmark for an intelligent and mature audience be it anime, or any other expression of storytelling.

… the only downside to this movie is that now I can’t get Ravel’s Bolero out of my head. And why is this a downside? … Well it isn’t 😉

#202 : Fist of the North Star 2

Legends never die, heroes are immortal… with all that in mind, let’s have a sequel! Considered the genesis point of shonen fighter that defined the genre we know today, Fist of the North Star was as much evolutionary as it was revolutionary. The epic tale of the wandering martial artist Kenshiro has only just begun after the conclusion of the 1984 TV series. A film adaptation would follow in 1986 and a multitude of reboots have abounded ever since. Yet in 1987 a true sequel, or perhaps continuation was released to TV. Familiar faces have returned and new foes await in Fist of the North Star 2. Are you, “A tough boy (or girl)” that knows what it means to be “livin’ in the 90s”?

FotNS2_1Round Two! Now then, is this going to be nothing more than just a wash, rinse and repeat series almost as if the first Fist of the North Star never ended? I thought the battling was over; Raoh was defeated and peace was brought back to the land. Didn’t Ken and Yuria get to live happily ever after and settle down, build a house, raise a family, etc.? Not completely. Three truths exist in life: death, taxes and shonen fighters are often never over even when it is over. Just add yet another arc again and again and again if the going is good. So don’t expect nothing new in terms of what you have seen before, well except for the characters we meet during this 43 episode sojourn.

FotNS2_2Let us now return to more familiar names. Kenshiro is obvious, this is his show after all, but two faces you may not recognize completely are Bat and Lin. During the first series they were both young children who were often under the care of Kenshiro like a surrogate father. For Fist of the North Star 2, Bat and Lin reunite and fight along side Kenshiro as they have grown into adulthood. A true surrogate family reunion. Many new quests include finding the Celestial Emperor, a journey to the Island of Asura and the distant memories as well as the ever powerful influence of the once mighty Raoh still permeate throughout the land. In usual fashion, Kenshiro ends up wanting to go it alone eventually, feeling he is the one with the cross to bear the heavy load. Oh yeah… and can you believe it… Lin has a twin sister too?

FotNS2_3I have remarked in the past how I appreciate the type of protagonist Kenshiro is. He may be ripped and very masculine, but his quiet and caring demeanor (towards those who are just and kind) and ability to move, or fight, when the time is right is more an aspect of the feminine. He is well balanced, the definition of yin and yang in harmony, but there is more that makes Fist of the North Star appealing outside of the fighting. While Mad Max and Bruce Lee are obvious visual influences there were a couple others that I noticed watching this sequel series in particular. Fist of the North Star is the ultimate lone wolf samurai story, or put another way, perhaps the best Western ever told not in the Wild West. This is totally a Spaghetti Western in every way, but for the fact that Fist of the North Star is a Japanese cartoon about the martial arts. I prefer the cartoons (obviously) 😉 … Who needs cowboys anyway?

… and then wouldn’t you know it, about halfway through the series we do encounter cowboys.

FotNS2_4You can have too much of a good thing. I enjoy Fist of the North Star overall, but in all honesty I was getting a little tired getting through this second series. It’s a great sequel, but like many shonen fighters I often wonder when they will ever end. This second series in many ways can be considered like Dragon Ball Z to the original Dragon Ball in that for both franchises we are just moving into an evolved portion of the plot that takes place years later. After all these years I will be the first to say that after all this fighting, Ken please consider retiring. You must be tired and you have earned your time to relax my friend. But Ken as he is will most likely never retire as he is always on some sort of a journey.

By the way… even though the opening sequence said everyone was fightin’ and livin’ in the 90s… Fist of the North Star 2 didn’t look much like the 90s that I remember. Oh well, maybe I was not livin’ I guess. 😉

#198 : Hades Project Zeorymer

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the form of a four episode mecha anime… never thought I would say that statement. Here we have an OVA that begins a little weak and then evolves very quickly after the initial introduction into one of the darkest tales of the piloted giant robot genre. In the end who is the hero and who is the villain? Maybe it could be played from either side, or maybe neither side is truly on the side of justice, which brings up another topic, the aspect of self identity. Am I really who I think I am, or am I only the programming of someone else’s will? Wow this sounds deep, so this must have been well loved? By some yes, by others not so much… this was Hades Project Zeorymer.

HPZ_1Let’s now dive into this interesting stew. Mix part Izcer-1 and Dangaioh from director Toshiro Hirano; 80s mecha OVA experience check. Now add in some Silent Möbius from character designer Michitaka Kikuchi (a.k.a. Kia Asamiya); gritty cyberpunk attitude check. Now add this to a previously released mecha manga that was featured in a lolita hentai magazine and was created by the mind responsible for the Guyver (Yoshiki Takaya). What the?! Now how did this all work out as a mainstream OVA release? Easy… no hentai, or lolicon stuff… oh good that was creeping me out. The final product became a possible prototype for what became of mecha anime in the late 1990s. Angst filled, psychological, darker in tone… perhaps Evangelion was not as revolutionary as we are led to believe? After all Evangelion paid homage to the many things from creator Hideaki Anno’s past, including his mental journey states. Now let us return to Zeorymer.

HPZ_2How is it that I am so mixed about Zeorymer? The first episode was a bit of a let down and I was thinking that things were pointing to a plot direction of a mecha of the episode fighting against a wimpy hero. Then things change over the remaining three episodes moving into an extremely darker tone that shapes not only the characters, but the plot as well. We begin with our protagonist who plays the victim card and is taken by strangers to pilot a giant robot that was stolen from a large organization bent on conquering the world. With this renegade machine we find our protagonist change from scared and mild mannered into inhumane and cold. This is like shifting from Gundam’s Amuro Ray, or Evangelion’s Shinji Ikari into the archetype of M.D. Geist at the drop of a pin. Our hero is not a hero, or a victim, but perhaps a villain? Or is he? Several characters in this OVA, including our main character, end up looking inside themselves to realize what they thought they were was nothing more than a manufactured hoax.

HPZ_3Very heavy themes surround Zeorymer, but the shorter episode count format could have been longer in my opinion. The subject matter could have worked very well for a TV series, or at least a longer OVA run to develop the plot even more. We have to accept what is given even though for me this anime had a lot of potential. I am always a sucker for a deep intense story so when it gets good in terms ot being ‘serious’ I want to dive even deeper down and down and down. Even if darker themes are not your cup of tea what cannot be denied is the quality of Zeorymer in terms of presentation. Like many of Hirano’s directorial projects the detail and fluidity are very high in terms of quality. Spare no expenses here, this is a nice looking OVA.

HPZ_41988 brought many reinventions and presentations in the OVA market. Gunbuster, Patlabor and Dragon’s Heaven all brought a hope of light to the future of mecha anime. But what of the former dramatic titles from the past that filled either epic space opera, or deep sacrificial tones to the story that were on television? This all seemed to be a memory until the appearance of a lone dark figure, Zeorymer, who would appear against the previously mentioned titles as a both a call from the past and a harbinger of the future. Zeorymer may not be too everyone’s taste palette, but it cannot be ignored.